A bit of luck, a lot of courage, and the ability to crack the leather off the ball through extra cover is the lethal combination that forms Australian captain Michael Clarke.
His heroics flew slightly under the radar as opener Ed Cowan shone on the way to his maiden Test century, but that could possibly be put down to the fact that it is never unexpected of Captain Clarke to produce this type of resurrection.
At 3 for 40, the follow-on was imminent. A looming fear that must have made the usually calm Michael Hussey and wicket-keeper Matthew Wade sweat at the very thought of it.
Clarke toyed with the highly-praised South African pace line-up on the way to his sixth Test century as captain in 27 innings, putting him up there with the likes of Sir Donald Bradman and legendary Sunil Gavaskar.If you think that’s making a mountain out of an molehill, consider this:
The 31-year-old has so far converted every 2012 Test century into a double century.
He has scored over 1000 runs in his seven Tests in 2012 with an incredible average of 111.
The Aussie skipper also starred in all four century stands for the fourth wicket after being 3-40 or worse.
So why should it be a shock to the ears to hear that Michael Clarke put on a record 259-run partnership with Ed Cowan? And then followed that up with a quick-fire partnership with No.6 Michael Hussey.
But perhaps Clarke’s most underestimated characteristic is his ability to lead from the front, inspiring his troops while at the same time draining the upbeat attitudes of the previously dominant South African attack to a dry and weary apathy.
At the start of Day 4, Graeme Smith would have been licking his lips at chance to knock over the Australians within the first couple of sessions.
Paceman Rory Kleinveldt had the ball moving off the seam, Dale Steyn had the raw pace and Morne Morkel’s awkward bowling action had Clarke and Cowan at sixes and sevens for some time.
The momentum has since shifted in the favour of the Australians, somewhat shoved that way by the efforts of Captain Courageous, Ed Cowan and the ever-reliable Michael Hussey.
A clinical batting display by these three has exposed South Africa’s raw underside without a spinner. After braving the new ball (twice), Australia piled on 457 for the loss of one wicket - an unfortunate bowler’s end runout that clipped the fingers of Dale Steyn on the way to the wickets.
Other than that, South Africa looked lost for ideas and frozen in the dread of what Michael Clarke can do with the bat and the captain’s brain he accommodates.
With the idea of the draw now flirting as the most probable result, don’t rule out what Captain Clarke has up his sleeve.
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